By Nihal Zaroug.
Tripoli, 31 March 2013:
The Ministry of Justice was surrounded this morning by members of the Supreme Security Committee in charge . . .[restrict]of the prison at Metiga airbase. They forced Minister Salah Marghani and staff out of the building. The reports of numerous men in uniform arriving with armed vehicles and weapons quickly made news.
Government forces were later rushed to the Ministry to confront the SSC.
Marghani later confirmed the incident during a press conference held by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and other government officials. No injuries were reported when all employees were asked to vacate the premises by members of the SSC. At the press conference the minister did not look the worse for the attack, putting paid to earlier reports that he had been beaten.
According to Marghani, the men had besieged the building in protest at imminent plans to hand the Mitiga prison to the Ministry of Justice. They reputedly claimed they feared that under the government’s control, prisoners connected with the former regime would be able to get away. The escape of Bashir Saleh, a close associate of Qaddafi, was raised when protestors were asked why they had taken control of the Ministry.
Marghani has, however, taken an increasingly tough line on the need to bring militiamen who break the law and commit human rights abuses to account. It is thought that this may have been the real reason for the attack.
At the press conference. Marghani was adamant that no prisons would continue to operate outside the state’s control. He again went on to condemn arbitrary detention and torture. Justice and rule of law would prevail in Libya, he said, and those responsible for torture and crimes against humanity would be held accountable either through local courts or the International Court of Justice.
Zeidan added that the government would not submit to pressure and threats that would derail the building of a state based on law and justice, stability and security. Zeidan took the opportunity to thank all those who recognised the legitimacy of Libya’s elected Congress and those who stood with the government.
Tolerance of militias is diminishing as Libyans look to the state to improve the security of the country. Militias are generalyl seen as being part of the problem and not the solution.
Last week, supporters of the Political Isolation Law and a group calling for Zeidan to step down, sprayed graffiti on the outside walls and surrounded the prime minister’s headquarters for several days. The demonstrators failed to rally broad support and were countered by a mounting group of nearby residents who grew tired of their presence.
There has been a concentrated effort by the Ministries of Interior and Defence to disband militias and gangs in Tripoli. A joint security force from both ministries has successfully regained control of some 36 locations across the capital and its suburbs. According to the Interior Ministry spokesman, Magdi Al-Arafi, some 500 properties were earmarked in “Operation Tripoli”, to stamp out renegade militias. [/restrict]